Mattress blankets and pillows are easy options if you want to update your existing bed to make it cooler, more comfortable, or supportive. They are simple to use – just place them on top of your existing mattress to transform it according to your needs. Some of them can be as luxurious as one of this year’s best mattresses, only they’re much, much cheaper. Otherwise, as we will explain throughout this comparison between mattress and mattress topper, they are very different products.
The best mattress protectors can be used with new mattresses until you break them down a little better, and on older mattresses that are still in relatively good condition. But if your mattress is running low, adding a topper will only temporarily mask any issues. Mattress pads are a little different in that they don’t instantly change the feel of your bed, but add extra comfort.
Below, we’ll explore the key differences between mattresses and mattresses to help you find the right choice for your bed and sleep. And if you’re thinking of buying any soon, we’re coming to a great time of year to do so, thanks to upcoming Labor Day mattress sales, which often include savings on other sleep-related products as well.
Mattress pillows vs mattress pads: what are they?
- Mattress pads and mattress covers change the feel of your bed
- Mattress pads subtly make your current bed more comfortable
- Mattress tops improve and extend the life of your current bed
You’d be forgiven for thinking there’s not much difference between a mattress and a mattress topper, but take a closer look and you’ll see that they can affect your sleep in different ways…
mattress pads are affordable, easy-to-adjust layers that subtly alter the feel of your mattress to make it more comfortable. They’re available in different materials including feathers, wool, cotton, latex and foam – all of which offer different touches depending on what you need. For example, foam will be softer, while wool will be cozier and latex will be stronger. Cotton, in turn, is a refreshing and breathable option. Mattress pillows can usually be machine washed.
mattress tops Upgrade your existing mattress and extend its lifespan by a year or two as long as the mattress is already in good condition. Also known as bed toppers, they add extra comfort in terms of pressure relief, firmness and cooling to help you sleep more comfortably. They’re made from the same materials you’d find in a mattress, including memory foam and latex, though some come with extra layers of feather or wool comfort if you need a little extra snuggle. Mattress toppers are generally not machine washable, but may include a cover that is.
Mattress pillows vs mattress pads: main differences
- Use a mattress topper to totally change the feel of your bed
- A mattress is thinner but helps protect against spills and allergens
- Most mattress protectors are not machine washable.
When thinking about buying a mattress topper or mattress, here’s what you need to know about the differences between them…
- A mattress pad subtly makes your bed more comfortable, while a mattress topper transforms the feel of your bed. Depending on what you need to help you sleep better, you’ll have to decide between a pad or a topper. If you want to significantly change the feel of your mattress so that it feels softer, firmer, or cooler, a mattress topper will do the job. But if you want a little more coziness, a mattress will be a better option for you.
- A mattress is thinner than a mattress topper. Mattress pads are thinner layers of about 1-2 inches, while mattresses are similar to a mattress layer and start at about 2 inches and thicker. As mattress pads are thinner, they are less likely to protect against wear and tear and spills, but they still offer more protection than a thin mattress protector and can also protect against dust mites and allergens.
- Most mattress pads can be cleaned in a washing machine, unlike many mattress pads. Because they are thinner and lighter, mattresses are usually easier to machine wash and tumble dry. If you prefer to use a mattress topper then you can protect it using a washable or waterproof mattress cover or alternatively look for mattress covers with a removable and washable cover.
Mattress pads vs mattress pads: prices
- Mattress toppers typically cost more than mattress pads
- Both toppers and pads are available in a range of prices.
- Either option is more affordable than buying a new mattress.
Both mattress pads and toppers are an inexpensive way to upgrade your bed compared to buying a new mattress — and they’re available in a wide range of budgets. But because they use a little more in terms of materials, mattresses are generally more expensive than mattresses. Most mattress brands manufacture pillows and toppers using the same high quality materials and workmanship. You will also find many choices of bedding retailers online.
Amazon has a variety of options when it comes to mattresses and pillows, and you can easily buy them for under $100 — which is ideal if you need a spare or are just looking to spruce up a guest bed. You can also buy direct from the brands; companies like Lucid have toppers from $80 (opens in new tab) for a queen, with plenty of cooling options too.
Upgrading your current bed with a topper from a premium mattress brand is a great compromise if you can’t readily afford one of your mattresses. For example, Tempur-Pedic makes toppers using the same famous NASA-inspired foam found in their mattresses, but at a much lower cost. Even better, if you browse Tempur-Pedic mattress sales, you will often find fantastic savings of up to 40% on Tempur-Pedic toppers.
Or, if you’re looking for luxury, head to a high-end eco-brand like Saatva and find quality options made with graphite, latex and foam. Saatva toppers from around $175 (opens in new tab) for a twin, while a mattress from $155 (opens in new tab) for the same size. You will sometimes find these items at a discount at Saatva mattress sales.
Ultimately, how much you spend on a mattress or mattress pad comes down to several factors, including:
- How often do you need to use it
- The state of your existing bed
- how much comfort do you need
- What you can (or are willing) to spend
If your existing mattress is relatively new or still in good condition, spending more on a decent mattress or pillow will help extend the life of your bed and keep it in good condition longer. If you just need a little adjustment, a mattress should be enough, but if you want to change the feel a lot, a mattress topper is probably a better option, as long as your existing mattress is stable enough.
Mattress pads vs mattress pads: Design
- Both toppers and pads are easy to fit and carry.
- They are made with the same materials as the upper mattresses.
- Options are available for pressure relief or cooling
Both mattress protectors and mattress pads are easy to install and convenient to transport. They come in the same sizes as standard mattresses – from twin to California king, and sit on top of the bed, secured by corner straps or in the same way as a fitted sheet. Some toppers come as just a layer with no attachments. You can easily stop this bed topper style by adding a mattress protector on top.
Mattress toppers and pillows are made from the same materials you would find in top-rated memory foam and hybrid mattresses. And like mattresses, they vary in construction and quality based on price.
As for mattress pads, you can buy a ‘mattress’ option filled with softer fibers to give you a little luxury should you need it. If you need a hypoallergenic topper or pillow, look for materials like organic latex or cotton that will keep your sleeping surface fresh and clean.
If you need extra pressure relief, bed toppers made with memory foam will help cushion your shoulders, hips and knees. If you’re after temperature regulation or breathability, then wool and cotton mattresses will do just fine, or look for mattress toppers with added cooling gel.
Mattress Pads vs Mattress Covers: Which Should You Buy?
For anyone looking to upgrade their bed quickly and affordably, a mattress or mattress topper is a great option. However, it’s worth bearing in mind the differences between the two so that you get exactly the qualities you need to sleep better…
Mattress protectors are practical, portable and easy to wash, but have less support than a mattress topper, which offers more cushioning for pressure points. If you just need a little extra warmth and coziness, then a mattress is the best choice for you. Otherwise, choose a mattress topper to significantly improve the feel of your bed – whether you need something firmer or cooler.
While both the mattress and bed protector will protect your mattress, a mattress protector is thicker, more durable, and a better choice for wear and tear. Toppers, however, are not as easy to clean as mattresses, although some have removable covers that are machine washable. (Most mattress pads can be machine washed and machine dried.)
Another factor to consider is cost. Mattress pads are often cheaper to buy than bed blankets, something to keep in mind if you want to freshen up a guest bed or don’t need to substantially transform your existing sleep setup. In either case, you’ll still be saving a lot of money instead of buying a new mattress — especially if you regularly browse ongoing mattress sales for pillow and topper deals.
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